Life or death … Surely not?

A sneak preview of Tank Lanning’s column on Sport24 today:

Tank Lanning
It’s not going particularly well for Heyneke Meyer is it? Given the two draws and losses resulting in the much publicised “Worse start than Peter de Villiers”, things between the four white lines have been less than ideal. And away from the field it does not look any more rosy, with that walkie talkie in the coach’s box taking more punishment than a Mike Tyson opponent, and talk of his mounting paranoia surfacing.
“These are life or death decisions for me” said Meyer after the New Zealand Test. Now as every single Bok coach will tell you, the pressure on the man tasked with managing the top side in a rugby mad country such as ours is immense – children get taunted at school, angry fans spit at you – but is this life and death thing not taking it just a smidgeon too far?
Sure all of the players, fans, and multiple stakeholders are disappointed, but that sun still came up on Sunday – both in New Zealand and in South Africa! Life or death?
I am not sure we can blame the coach for feeling like this though? The need to win pervades our society, and as such influences every single decision made, with the repercussions met with a scathing lack of apathy. And given the unbelievable good that victories at the 1995 and 2007 Rugby World Cups have done for the nation, one can understand the desire to win.
But at what cost?
Sticking to the knitting … Doing what we do best … Playing the Springbok way …
At the expense of keeping an eye on trends in the sport and adapting our game to play a slightly different way perhaps? I am all for proud Springbok traditions that stem from a proud Springbok record, but is it not just a little arrogant to think that this “Springbok way” will be able to dominate a sport that is clearly evolving?
Whether the sport is evolving into a better beast is up for debate, and a discussion for a different column, but what is palpably clear is that it is without doubt evolving. And to my mind, the Springboks are being left behind, due partly to an obsession with winning every single game, and an arrogance in believing that the “Springbok way” will always be “The way” …
A fascinating interview with Frans Steyn in the latest edition of SA Rugby magazine in which the Bok prodigy admits to succumbing to an inflated ego before his stint with Racing Metro reinforces my point.
“Ja, it’s fair to say when I was younger I had become big-headed … I was fussed over throughout my schoolboy career, then I played for the Boks after only a couple of Currie Cup games – it happened so quickly that I probably got swept away by it all.”
“The constant attention at home probably helped give me an inflated opinion of myself. Being in Paris on my own for the most part gave me room to breathe, to find myself” said Steyn of his time with the French club.
I spoke out at the time of the constant scowl Steyn used to carry when on a rugby field prior to his time in France, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders, expecting him to either score or make a try every time he touched the ball. Having shared a prawn cocktail with the man at a recent BMW ambassadors lunch at Swartkops racetrack, I can honestly say that he is a new man – with that weight removed from his shoulders.
And it took some time away from South Africa for that to happen!
Players need to grow as people too – it was interesting listening to up and coming Western Province stars Nic Groom, Don Armand and Marcel Brache – speaking on a radio show I host – talking up the value of their experience gained away from the field while studying at UCT and playing Varsity Cup. Basically saying that life cannot be all about rugby …
Perhaps we as the public should take a cue from all this, and give both coaches and players a little space in which to grow as people, allowing South African rugby a chance to evolve?


  1. Ditto! And our young players should study and get a qualification. It will make them better rugby players who can think on their feet and make better decisions. Young talented rugby players get drafted into professional rugby squads straight from school and they dont develop as people, they end up being rugby clones. Its just rugby, rugby, rugby…they get lots of attention but not much EQ, wisdom or life skills.

  2. Good article Tank.. 🙂 Although – Meyer has ‘made his own bed’ – by his brain-fart selections of Bibilical proportions, like:

    1) Selecting a straight-back-from-injury Jacques Potgieter ahead of a fully match-fit Heinrich Brussow for the Tests vs England in June.

    2) His persistence with the at-best provincial level player that is Zane Kirchner – and keeping Pat Lambie on the bench. DUHH-UHH !!

    3) His persistence with the useless, useless – all-season-out-of-form – Morne Steyn!!! I know Johan Goosen has been injured – then how about Pat Lambie at 10?? Peter Grant?? Elton Jantjies?? Enough said – Meyer you stupid, stubborn, troglodyte!

    4) Going with JJ Englebrecht in the squad – then Hougaard on the wing – while leaving the X-factor Gio Aplon out the squad altogether.

    5) His insistence on surrounding himself with his Blue Bulls management – and players. Leaving someone like Jaques Nienaber – the Stormers defence guru (with the Stormers having the best defensive record in Super Rugby 3 seasons in a row) – but including the not-in-the-same-class Bulls defence coach. It has showed…

    6) His pathetic inability to see the bigger picture – ie plan a 12 month rugby season in advance. Did the stupid idiot not foresee – with Super Rugby being as long as it is – that mid-season fatigue would set-in – especially amongst the forwards..???

    RIGHT – in June and November we have the Test windows – where N.Hemsiphere clubs have to release their players if called upon.. Could the stupid tw#t not foresee that if he played our first-choice front-row – the Sharks front-row – in all 3 Tests vs England – they would be fatigued come the Rugby Championship – especially vs Aussie and NZ..?? That’s exactly what happened vs Aussie.. It was a disgrace seeing our scrum go into reverse – against an Aussie scrum.. Vs France, England, NZ, even Argentina – ok, maybe – it has happened before – understandable – but vs Aussie, who have never been renowned as power-house scrummagers..??? Meyer – you disgrace!!

    Forward planning involves the technique of planing an entire 12 month cycle – and then utilising ALL available resources (ie players) at any given time – maximising timing of form, availability, and the max use of periods when key players can be rested during the 10 months of actual rugby-playing during the year..

    Right – could the stupid, stupid plank NOT see the value of getting Gurthro Steenkamp and Heinke vd Merwe (Brian Mujati – if all is forgiven?) – back for the June Tests vs England – to play in at least 2 of the Tests…??? Thus giving the Sharks front 3 a CRUCIAL 3 week mid-season break/rest – ideally planning for them to ‘peak’ for the 4 Tests, home and away, vs Aussie and NZ… A front-row of:

    1) Gurthro Steenkamp
    2) Adriaan Strauss
    3) Heinke vd Merwe / WP Nel

    Bench: Tiaan Liebenberg or Chiliboy Ralepelle; Coenie Oosthuizen/Heinke/WP Nel.

    That front-row and bench-cover would have been absoutely fine for seeing off England.

    Not to mention one of Bakkies Botha or Danie Rossouw??? Experienced ‘ysters’ around which a young Eben Etzebeth and/or Juandre Kruger could learn and grow… The same kind of impact that Johan Ackermann had on the development of Johan Muller and others at the Sharks…


    I know it’s also about players wanting to play and being paid. Right – PAY the Sharks front row (and any others playing Super Rugby at the time, whom it would be deemed was in the Boks’ strategic interest they be rested for the June Tests) – pay them NOT to play. Ie – pay them as if they were playing.. Yes – this may push up SARU’s salary bill – so what – it’s not as if SARU are bankrupt…???

    If it means optimising Bok playing resources – giving us the best chance to go unbeaten through a season – SO BE IT – do it – extend the squad – and pay them all… 🙂

    I tell you now Tank – Meyer is also severly hamstrung by having to accommodate (for political reasons) the way-out-of-his-depth Ricardo Loubscher – the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup coach – still finding his feet at Vodacom Cup level… I mean – WTF..??

    While the genius, the backline rugby nous, of Dr. Brendan Venter and Carel du Plessis sits on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs…….

    Pathetic SARU – PATHETIC!!

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  3. PS: What to do now??

    Heyneke Meyer is “4 years too late” as I call it. He would’ve been perfect in 2008 – not now – his beloved Bulls players who took his team to great heights – Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez et al – have all moved on…

    He is a dinosaur today with today’s players – with how the game has evolved…

    I say – seeing as well rugby is professional today – what would the greatest entrepreneur of all time – Sir Richard Branson – do??

    I would bet – he would recognise the problem – and move to solve it. Immediately.

    He would FIRE Meyer and his hapless bunch of incompetents – and install Dawie Theron and Dr. Brendan Venter (and Carel du Plessis) and head coach and assistants..

    Then – install Jaques Nienaber as defence guru, and Professor Tim Noakes as conditioning advisor…

    Dawie Theron; Brendan Venter; Carel du Plessis; Jaques Nienaber; Prof Noakes – that’s my coaching team to take us forward – maximising our traditional strengths, while also bringing out the very best in all the marvellous backline players – their skill, talent, and natural flair – we have in SA rugby.. While being professionally advised re the players’ peak conditioning, when to rest certain players etc etc – by Prof Noakes… 🙂

    Any other management/ coaching advisory personnel deemed necessary – Mr. Theron can select… 🙂

    Alas – you think SARU is that proactive…??? LOL! Next joke… So Tank – what odds against our beloved Boks lurching back-and-forth from success to dismal losses the next 4 years – under the dinosaur Meyer and his collective of incompetents – and their complete inability to plan a 12 month rugby/rest cycle..???

    Alas… *sigh* !!

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